Pressure is mounting on U.S. and multinational employers to require COVID-19 vaccines for employees, as the Delta variant spreads voraciously, spiking infections and hospitalizations across the country and forcing employers to once again shutter worksites or change their workplace safety protocols. But can (and should) employers mandate vaccination?

Vaccine mandates received strong support on Thursday, July 29 when President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees and onsite contractors either must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements, and restrictions on travel. The same day, the U.S. Treasury Department released a policy statement directing state and local governments to use funds from the $350 billion American Rescue Plan to incentivize vaccines by offering $100 to individuals who get vaccinated.

Separately, more than 600 universities have announced mandates for students or employees. And state and local governments have joined in, with California and New York City announcing mandates this week for government employees and certain healthcare workers, and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs announcing that frontline VA health care employees must get vaccinated or face termination.

Large employers are joining the fray, with global technology companies, financial institutions, healthcare systems, retailers, transportation companies and media companies recently announcing that vaccination will be required for everyone in their workplaces.

So can private employers adopt mandatory vaccination policies? What follows is a framework for understanding whether such an approach is permissible both in and outside the US, as well as some of the key considerations for such policies.

Bottom line: in the US, private employers can legally mandate vaccines under federal law, subject to the legal considerations outlined below. State law, however, differs by jurisdiction, with some states authorizing vaccine mandates while at least one has banned them.  For illustrative purposes, we discuss California law in the framework below.


Continue Reading Mandating COVID-19 Vaccination? Before You Act, Consider These Key Issues For US and Multinational Employers

A proposed bill in California seeks to protect workers against nondisclosure agreements and empower them to speak out about alleged acts of discrimination, including racism. Senate Bill 331, known as the Silenced No More Act, was introduced in February 2021 and seeks to expand protections against confidential settlements to cover all forms of harassment or discrimination under California law, including on the basis of race, ancestry, religion or gender identity. If passed, the law will impose greater restrictions on companies’ freedom to contract settlement and non-disparagement agreements.

New Obligations if SB 331 Passes

  1. SB 331 will expand the existing prohibition of provisions that prohibit discussing sexual harassment in the workplace to discussing any type of harassment (i.e., race, age, religious harassment). (See discussion of SB 820 below.)
  2. The law will prohibit non-disparagement agreements that prohibit the disclosure of information about unlawful acts in the workplace.
  3. The law also will create new obligations, such as the requirement to notify the employee that the employee has a right to consult an attorney regarding the agreement and giving the employee “a reasonable time period of not less than five business days” in which to do so.

Several Employer-Friendly Changes to Observe

  1. The law clarifies that including a general release or waiver of all claims in an agreement related to an employee’s separation from employment does not violate the statute.
  2. It verifies that the law does not prohibit a provision that precludes the disclosure of the amount paid in settlement of a claim.
  3. It confirms that employers may protect trade secrets, proprietary information, or confidential information that does not involve unlawful acts in the workplace.


Continue Reading #MeToo 2.0: New California Bill Proposes Greater Restrictions on Confidentiality and Non-Disparagement Agreements

Companies are facing critical business challenges in regard to their most important asset – their people. While workforce transformation is not a new concept for global organizations, the pandemic has forced us to rapidly adapt our standard ways of working and how we engage with employees to ensure the long-term viability of the business. We

We are pleased to share a recent SHRM article, “Restructuring Your Organization Post-Pandemic? Maintain DE&I Commitments,”  with quotes from Mike Brewer. The articles discusses employers should be careful not to backtrack on progress made last year toward diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as they prepare for a post-pandemic world, restructuring and reorganization to account for

On April 16, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a statewide right of recall law (Senate Bill 93). SB 93 is similar to the Los Angeles City recall ordinance and the San Francisco right to reemployment legislation. It is effective immediately and will remain in effect through December 31, 2024.

Here’s what you need to know:  

Covered Employers

The new law does not apply to all employers. It applies generally to hotels, private clubs, event centers, airport hospitality operations, and airport service providers, while also applying specifically to janitorial, building maintenance and security services provided to office, retail and other commercial buildings.

Important Definitions:

  • “Hotel” means a residential building that is designated or used for lodging and other related services for the public, and containing 50 or more guest rooms, or suites of rooms (adjoining rooms do not constitute a suite of rooms). “Hotel” also includes any contracted, leased, or sublet premises connected to or operated in conjunction with the building’s purpose, or providing services at the building.
  • “Private club” means a private, membership-based business or nonprofit organization that operates a building or complex of buildings containing at least 50 guest rooms or suites of rooms that are offered as overnight lodging to members.
  • “Event center” means a publicly or privately owned structure of more than 50,000 square feet or 1,000 seats that is used for the purposes of public performances, sporting events, business meetings, or similar events, and includes concert halls, stadiums, sports arenas, racetracks, coliseums, and convention centers.
    • The term “event center” also includes any contracted, leased, or sublet premises connected to or operated in conjunction with the event center’s purpose, including food preparation facilities, concessions, retail stores, restaurants, bars, and structured parking facilities.
  • “Airport hospitality operation” means a business that prepares, delivers, inspects, or provides any other service in connection with the preparation of food or beverage for aircraft crew or passengers at an airport, or that provides food and beverage, retail, or other consumer goods or services to the public at an airport.
  • “Airport service provider” means a business that performs, under contract with a passenger air carrier, airport facility management, or airport authority, functions on the property of the airport that are directly related to the air transportation of persons, property, or mail, including, but not limited to, the loading and unloading of property on aircraft, assistance to passengers under Part 382 (commencing with Section 382.1) of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, security, airport ticketing and check-in functions, ground-handling of aircraft, aircraft cleaning and sanitization functions, and waste removal.
  • “Building service” means janitorial, building maintenance, or security services.


Continue Reading California Establishes Statewide Right to Recall for COVID-Related Layoffs Limited to Certain Industries

In brief

The California Supreme Court recently established new law on two important topics for meal period compliance and litigation. Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC (2021) San Diego Superior Court, Case No. S253677 (February 25, 2021). First, the Court held that California employers cannot round time punches for meal periods. Second, the Court held that time records showing noncompliant meal periods raise a rebuttable presumption of meal period violations. The Donohue Court also implicitly approved a method for employers to use to determine whether meal period premiums should be paid for missed, short or late meal periods.


Continue Reading California Rejects Meal Period Rounding

For the last year, employers have faced unprecedented challenges navigating the impact of the pandemic. Keeping up with scores of new laws, evolving standards, shelter-in-place orders (see our tracker here), quarantine restrictions and more has meant no rest for the weary. And, in the backdrop, there’s the looming threat of employment litigation arising from

The DOL’s just-issued final rule on employee vs. independent contractor classifications under the FLSA seems likely to be reversed. On January 20, the White House issued a memorandum to the heads of all executive departments and agencies ordering them to halt all non-emergency rulemaking and regulatory activity issued under the previous administration pending review by

In his first day in office, President Joe Biden signaled that his administration will take a different approach to D&I in the workplace than the previous administration. Corporate leaders should continue investing in D&I work, implementing policies that create equity and foster inclusion for underrepresented minorities, such as enforcing zero-tolerance rules for discrimination, harassment and

We identified and mapped out our most relevant blog posts, articles and video chats to serve as a quick and handy roadmap to recovery and renewal for your company.

Our 2021 Employment & Compensation Resource Navigator provides US multinational companies organized links to Baker McKenzie’s most helpful, relevant thought leadership in one brief document. Arranged